Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. As frostbite gets worse, the affected skin may change color and become hard or waxy-looking.


The standard acute treatment for all degrees of frostbite consists of rapid rewarming in water heated to 37–40°C with a mild antibacterial agent (povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine) added, for at least 30 minutes until complete thawing.


Keep the patient warm

Cover the burn using cling film or a dressing.

DO NOT wrap of fix any dressings circumferentially


Seek medical attention for clinical assessment

Call 000 or present to your nearest emergency department if the following applies:

  • Burns of special areas – face, hands, feet, genitalia, perineum, major Joints and circumferential limb or chest burns 
  • Burns with potential inhalation injury 
  • Electrical burns 
  • Chemical burns 
  • Burns with pre-existing illness 
  • Burns associated with other injuries 
  • Burns at the extremes of age – young children and the elderly. 
  • Burn injury in pregnant women 
  • Non-accidental burns 
  • If you are concerned  
  • Pain not managed with simple over the counter analgesia  
  • Available dressings unable to contain and cover injury

When to call a doctor?  

Most minor burns can be treated with first-aid, however, if the burn is severe you will need to seek medical help or call 000.  

If the burn is deep you may want to follow up with your GP to see if you need further care or an updated tetanus shot.